Third Row Blind

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Government has cost us so much it is hard to add it all up. Many of these costs are hidden costs, too.

For instance, usable people-carrying capacity.

This week, I am test driving the new (2022) Mitsubishi Outlander, which is a compact-sized crossover based on the Nissan Rogue. The two share the same drivetrain – which they do because (once again) of government, which has made it so expensive for a smaller car company like Mitsubishi to achieve compliance with the multiple/tiered regulatory regimes applied to a new engine/drivetrain combo  that it is easier and much more cost-effective for the smaller company to just buy/license an engine/drivetrain that has already achieved compliance from another company.

Thus, the Outlander is more or less a re-bodied Rogue, with three rows of seats rather than the Rogue’s just two. The idea being to give buyers a reason to buy the Mitsubishi rather than the Nissan.

It’s not a bad idea. Having room for seven in a vehicle that would otherwise take only five being useful for those who need the extra seats and maybe don’t want the extra size. The problem is that there’s really not enough legroom for the third row in a vehicle this size, because of the way the third row has to be arranged.

Which is because of the government.

The Outlander’s third row – like the third rows in all modern, government-approved vehicles that have them – faces forward. This being necessary to achieve compliance with federal saaaaaaaafety regimes. If the seats faced rearward, there would be vastly more legroom – because all of the cargo room would be available for legs. And it would be vastly easier for passengers to get to those seats, since they would not have to climb over the second row to get to them.

The seats could still be folded, too – to make room for cargo when not in use.

It would also be much less hassle to put kids in those seats, the law requiring that kids be strapped into saaaaaaaaaafety seats – which are all-but-impossible for a parent to secure when the third row faces forward. But if the third row faced rearward, it would be easier to strap a kid in than in any of the other forward-facing rows. Plus, the kids would want to be back there – as anyone who was a kid before the government outlawed rear-facing seats will remember.

They were the best seats in the house. You faced the rear glass and watched the world unfold behind you. If there was enough glass, you could look up at the clouds – or the night sky. If it was summer – and the rear glass was rolled down – you felt the wind in your hair and smelled the world outside.

The kids of today have paid a price – though they are unaware of the cost.

They sit facing forward, strapped in tight. They probably never ride in the third row because it’s too much hassle for mom or dad to strap them in and besides, there’s not enough room back there and not much to see back there, the view being obscured by the seats (and heads) of the people they face.

They are the least desirable seats in the house.

Also the least practical, which is ironic in view of that being the whole point of having them in the first place.

But it’s not saaaaaaaaaaafe!

No. It’s simply not compliant – and that is a different thing altogether.

There was no epidemic of child-death when cars had rear-facing seats, which many cars used to have. It was a typical feature found in the large station wagons that were the preferred family car before the government got into the business of designing (via regulatory regimes) cars. Some of these cars could take nine people.

Italics for a reason.

Those big, family-friendly cars – the station wagons of the ’69, 70s and even into the ’80s – were outlawed by the government. Not using laws, of course. Rather, regulations. Specifically, regulations regarding how much gas they were permitted to use, according to government “standards.” These “standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE) made it very difficult to continue building 7-9 passenger station wagons, which generally had big V8s, too.

Today, only huge SUVs and pick-ups do.

The minivan took over the family-hauler role because it could seat 7-8. But minivans have a certain ambiance. Enter the crossover, the vehicle which does what a minivan does, just not quite as well – without looking like one, which compensates for that. But the third rows in these things is almost always tight – and awkward. Unless the crossover is super-sized, which applies another cost and not just in terms of what it costs you to buy more vehicle. There is also the cost of driving such a huge hoss – and of feeding it.

And finding space to park it.

Just another measure of what government has cost us, kids and grown-ups alike.

. . .

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  1. One of my fondest memories of bein a kid was sittin in the Crown Vic wagon jumpseats whenever we picked up my friends..shit was awesome. We’d go to the flea market and sit back there on the way home rifling through all the boxes of toy loot that the old people would sell us for pocket change. Good stuff

  2. Thanks for the time-warp flashback with your lead photo. My parents had a, ‘lime green family truckster’ just like the one in the photo. Traveling in that back seat as a child, was. Da. Bomb!
    Those were indeed glorious days compared to today.

    We never had those fancy yellow rain suits though.

  3. My ’02 Audi A6 Avant has two rear-facing child seats. I’ve never actually used them for their intended purpose but that seems really unique given what’s going on.


    Today, I took that car out for its bi-monthly spin down to the store — it’s not a daily driver so it sits around nowadays. Gotta stretch its legs once in a while.

    When I was leaving from the store, put it in reverse, put on the gas, there was this super long delay… engine revved… and THUNK!!! It jolted into reverse and made an awful clunking sound.

    I put it into drive, gave it gas, and the gear didn’t engage! I looked down and every gear indicator was lit… P R N D S… all lit up on the dash simultaneously. It was like stuck in either 2nd or 3rd gear (of a 5spd auto).

    I had to give it lots of gas to come off the line, and then past 45 mph it was winding and not down shifting on a coast to the lights. I was like, “Oh effing hell, this is her last ride!”

    Made it home on the backroads, pulled into the driveway, turned it off. Waited. Silent prayer. Tried it again!

    Worked like nothing ever happened! Everything back to normal. I think that car is gonna ie man and it’s SO cool. I love it so much. Alas, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I’m not well off enough to make this car right. Just a question of time.

  4. Coming back from a trip to Uncle Bob’s farm in the late 60s in Dad’s 63 Lark wagon with the sliding roof and a small V8 hooked to a automatic tranny. 9 children and 4 adults for an hour some ride. Another time in that period riding in Uncle Ev’s Ford pickup with a bunch of us kids in the back for an hour ride up and down steep hills on a warm day in tee shirts and shorts when the day turned windy and cold. We had great fun until the weather changed. But we made it to our destination. Ev always had Ford trucks and Dodge cars. The back seat in our wagon was the first choice for us kids and we often fought to be facing the back of the car. We could see the other drivers’ faces, and even make faces in return.
    These days I love to tell my kids what they really missed.

  5. My dad bolted a bench car seat in the back of his ’63 Chevy, facing rearward. Those were the days, cruising Arizona’s highways, young me riding back there, listening to Pantera on my walkman. *sigh*

  6. We would ride in the back of the ford ltd wagon and get trucks to blow their horns.
    That was entertainment before the gameboy.

    And there was so much room to sleep

  7. WTI crude oil tagged $84 a barrel today, a 7-year high.

    And it’s risen for a record nine weeks straight.

    I did that.‘ — FJB

  8. Those big old wagons had far more actual usable space (even with rear wheel drive) in them compared with any of today’s crossover and most smaller or midsized SUV’s. And they could tow things too which minivans generally don’t.

    So thats why most of my friends with kids now drive the biggest SUV’s like Tahoes and Expeditions……. I am guessing at least some of them would have chosen a big wagon if they still existed.

  9. Eric,

    I don’t know if it’s still the case, but when first launched, the Tesla Model S HAD optional, rearward facing seats! They were, until recently, available in the Tesla Model S. However, it’s been redesigned, so I don’t know if that third row of rearward facing seats are still available…

  10. I wish it were true that the pleasures of actually living your life, as opposed to protecting it at all costs, were lost. They were given away. Never is one more alive than when their life is at risk. When faced with immanent death, the value of life is exponentially increased, speaking from experience. No, I do not recommend people intentionally put their lives at risk, unless they want to, in which case they should be allowed to. In fact there should be no such thing as “allowing” them to do so. It has become truly absurd that the entity the very least concerned about your welfare, the Psychopaths In Charge, are dictating what you can and cannot do based upon what is “safe” and what is “not safe”. The next thing you know, they will make it illegal to submit any comment on any forum after consuming a double shot of gin, as I did half an hour ago.

    • Thing is too, John, when their is imminent risk, it usually causes most sane people to act with greater caution and responsibility. Making people feel invincible by constantly ensuring that they are in a position where they can not be seriously hurt or killed no matter what they do, not only breeds irresponsibility and lack of caution, but it even encourages many to seek out risk and danger unnaturally, to compensate for that unnatural state of nothing-can-happen.

      • Quite true. In my younger years I was consumed by SCUBA diving for several years. There were two types of tank valves. One was J valve that had to be tripped to give you the last 300 psi, a “reserve” if you will. The other a K valve which did not. I opted for the K valve specifically because it did NOT offer that “safety” feature. Forcing one to monitor their tank pressure.

  11. Im wondering – how did tesla pull it off in a sedan ? (honestly that was the only really innovative thing I saw in that car). Though I dont think they offer that option anymore…. I suspect for the reasons you mention above.

  12. Why did they outlaw the rear facing seat? I would think it would be safer in a front end crash. My dad had a Dodge Monaco station wagon. Both my brother and I loved to ride in the rear facing seat. Can anyone explain the reasoning behind this change in the law?

    • Hi Oskar,

      They weren’t so much outlawed as regulated off the market.

      As by the “anti-whiplash” regulation; another peripheral; reason being the absence of sufficient structure in the rear liftgate area to comply with rear-impact regs for rear-facing passengers. It is also likely more challenging to design/integrate air bags to work with rear-facing seats.

      Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety first!

    • Funny thing is, I don’t even remember any actual rear-facing seats (except in the Subaru Brat ‘pick-ups’)- not to say they didn’t exist- but all I remember in the station wagons were the fold-out sideways facing seats.

      But to show how far we’ve fallen from the simple graces of normal life, it wasn’t that long ago that the great old Checker cabs in NYC used to have jump seats, for when you were traveling with a bunch of people:

    • No, but maybe the seat belts idiocy. If the seats in airplanes faced the rear of the plane, 90% of passengers would survive what now kills the people as the seats would absorb most of the impact of the crash, whereas facing forward the body takes the impact.

  13. Seats? Who needs seats? Some of the best hours of my life were spent sitting on the perfectly good cargo floor of my uncle’s ’67 Fairlane wagon on 60-mile trips to and from NYC….and I didn’t die once! I could only imagine how miserable those glorious trips, hanging out with my cousin, would have been if we had had to be strapped into some seat as would be the case today! The idea of being so restricted, AND of knowing that Big Brother’s tentacles could reach so far into one’s life AND even dictate the actions of one’s parents, would be downright terrifying on an Orwellian level!
    And things like this are the insidious evils which spread state-by-state almost unnoticed as people are distracted by the “issues” set forth in the media on the national level. Consider that while the strapping-in and specially-designed seats (Designed by a team of Chiro-practies hermetically sealed in a space capsule in Eloon Musk’s basement) were already mandated in some states decades ago, at the same time it was still legal in others for anyone (including one’s sprogs) to ride like a normal human being, sitting anyway or anywhere they so chose, even in the bed of a pick-up (The latter being still legal in some places literally just a year or two ago).

    • In then nineties and early oughts when my brood was young, we used vull size conversion vans, and the sprogs could either be in a playpen or the free area in back. All fully in defiance of the fatwas on kiddie seats of course. A nice feature of conversion vans is curtains and especially tinted windows. Keeps the busybodies and the gestapo in the dark- literally. People don’t get the attraction of vans and minivans- mostly because of their prejudices against soccer-mom MILF mobiles.

      • The conversion vans cost as much as the big SUV’s do now a days, so few pick those anymore. Which is too bad because most of those vans are far more comfortable for the passengers than the SUV.

    • We routinely rode in the back of a pickup truck, in either full or empty grain wagons, cotton boll buggies, whatever. This is in the country, in town, on backroads, and on major roads. Nobody cared. No one was ever hurt.

  14. Love the old magazine pic of the station wagon Eric. It reminds me of growing up, sis and I would sit in the way back. One day driving down Scottsdale Rd. Mom got hit by a drunk from the side. I was about eight years old and I actually saw it coming while in the back. From what I remember the whole ting seemed to move in Slow motion and it seemed to go on forever.

    Other than a few cuts and bruises both my sister and myself were fine. We didn’t have on seatbelts. I don’t even remember if the wagon had them installed. The solid steel construction of that station wagon made it very safe. A car built today with plastic and aluminum would crumple like a cardboard box at the slightest impact.

  15. I had a 1990 Taurus wagon, then put the 3rd row seat in later. It was a great car, lots of room and carrying capacity. More so than the SUV’s that came out in the late 90’s. (I kept that car till 2002)

  16. WAAAAY back “in the day”, my folks have a 1960 VW Beetle, purchased, I believe, from a VW dealer in “Nawlins” or Beaumont, TX, as I think there was no dealer in Lake Charles, LA, near the AF base where I was born. That car actually went with the whole “Famn Damily” when my Dad got his assignment to Japan and we lived as dependents there in the mid-60s. I remember that my old sis and I would fight over who got to sit in the “back-back”, that is, the space behind the back seat, over the engine. Belted? RU kidding?

    Of course, never mind that in Japan, at the time, a car seldom saw more than 50 km/hr, often, with those narrow streets in town, much less. That little Beetle was more than adequate, even my my little sis came along late in ’64, as the longest trips we ever took were from Yokota to Tachikawa. Any forays into Tokyo itself were done on the train, as finding a place to park…well, an exercise in futility.

    So anyone bringing up issues of “S-A-A-A-A-F-T-E-E-E” probably would have gotten a stare and an admonishment to mind one’s own business. Too bad we’ve lost that degree of self-respect and pugnacity.

    • Oh yeah, trip to Shakeys in the neighbor’s Beetle, and I was the one who fought for the cargo area “seating” over the engine! Loved that sewing machine flat four symphony. Must have been 1966 or thereabouts.

      Many trips in the back of a 1964 Valiant Wagon. Rubber mat floor over a plywood spare tire cover deck. If Dad brakes hard enough, the rubber mat slides out and you get splinters! Pick ’em out, keep moving.

      If someone had pointed-and-shrieked at Dad for driving kids in the back of a station wagon like that, he’d have had a few choice WW2 army words to tell them. It is indeed too bad such is not expected or tolerated any more.

  17. My wife’s 2007 Outlander has the rear third row seats facing backwards. Sized for kids but gets you seating 7. (I thought the seats facing backwards were considered crash seats back in the old astronaut days of Mercury-Gemini-Apollo?)

    • Indeed- if you’re involved in a frontal collision in a rear facing seat, the seat supports your whole body, at least until the back breaks off. But even in that extreme the padded seat takes the brunt of the impact and dissipates most of the energy.

      Of course I’ve also seen high speed rear end collisions where the driver went through the seatback and died- the most vivid and memorable one for me saw the guy’s back stretched and he ended up about 7 feet long. I’m quite sure a few air bags and a seat belt would have saved him…/sarc

  18. ‘It’s simply not compliant‘ — eric

    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    Public Enemy No. 1 declares war on us in Scranton, PA:

    ‘We will take millions of vehicles off the road. Off the road!

    Just as, with his forced jab agenda, Uncle Joe will take millions of people off the road, following in the footsteps of his mentor Uncle Joe Stalin.

    Senile old scarecrow FJB is on a mission to kill, at industrial scale.

    • Next week the delusional old git is headed to Virginia to peddle his hardball marxist poison on behalf of the Clintons’ criminal henchman, McAuliffe:

      ARLINGTON, Va. (WWBT) – President Joe Biden will campaign for Terry McAuliffe in northern Virginia next week. The two will be at Virginia Highlands Park in Arlington on Oct. 26.

      Those who RSVP to the event attest that they are fully vaccinated against COVID and will comply with other safety guidelines. No signs will be permitted at the event.


      Politics: CLOSED to the unvaxxed. Maybe they can stripped of the right to vote, too. /sarc

      • I think we should all boycott the next election.

        It’s rigged anyway, the fraud only ever goes one direction, we all know it, and nothing says “legitimacy” like winning with 98% of the votes.

        • I’ve been boycotting them for years. I do vote on proposals, which are typically approval/disapproval of stealing more of my property, but candidates? Why bother. All it does is grant your approval of the result of an election between the psychopath from this party, or the psychopath from that party. They all mean to pillage and plunder us until there is nothing left to steal.

          • If you’re in a small town, under about 500 people, by all means participate. Those elections aren’t necessarily honest either, but the dishonesty is smaller scale and your ability to checkmate the bastards is far greater.

            But on a state office, or federal level- pfui! If you win with 100% of the vote, they will beat you with 105%. Or if you sneak by they will neuter you with criminal lawfare, or just kill you. Peaceful civil disobedience and prepare to defend your person.

            • Indeed, there isn’t a local government that cannot be disposed of by a few armed dedicated men. It actually happened not so many years ago, in either Tennessee or Kentucky, I often get them confused. The locals threw out the sheriffs department because they were openly on the take.

        • Yeah. After Nov 2020 I unregistered. It’s a joke now. They literally do every single thing wrong, and don’t do one single thing right. But them sheep will be fillin out their ballots! Gotta keep pretending in the fake-trix!

          Sad part is, 99% of the people don’t even have a clue how elections are supposed to be done. They think primaries are normal, they think being forced to select only one item/candidate in a contest is normal, they think 50%+1 is fair. OMG. Total criminality in our faces, yet we all just let it go on, because we have no say in anything, this country is THEIR world, not ours, we just live in THEIR world. We can’t even vote anymore, they don’t represent us at all. The sheeple apparently just LOVE being abused, they’re all masochists.

      • Yeah and Terry’s not happy about it. Getting Biden involved is about as positive as a dead hooker in your campaign bus.

        • Hi Michael,

          I’m not optimistic about the VA race – or the Mitt Romney clone running against McAuliffe. But it is possible that enough moderate Democrats and independents – even in Northern Va. – have had enough of “masks” and Jabs and tranny rape in school.


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